It’s quite visually stunning, I’m sure you’ll agree. Directed by music video veteran Joseph Kahn, the opening sequence reveals a vulnerable looking Swift in a flowing blue garb as she makes her way from the beach into the dark depths of the surrounding woods. The following sequences are filled with action packed wolf chases, fantastical vines emerging magically from the ground, and fire ravaged forests that threaten to engulf the ever escaping Swift.
Is this a growing trend in an increasingly cinematic style of music videos? Just look at David Bowie’s latest (and sadly last) music video for Blackstar, directed by Johan Renck. And how about Joanna Newsom’s video for Divers, directed by none other than cinema’s favorite auteur Paul Thomas Anderson. It seems that it is no longer adequate to simply feature an artist singing in front of a bunch of booty-bouncing back-up dancers. And thank goodness for that. Has the video become more important than the music; however? It seems a high production value that matches anything Hollywood can conjure up is a must-have for any respectable billboard topping artist these days, which means more business and more opportunity for us film makers to express our passions and talents.
Swift’s Out of the Woods video is rich in visual motif, full of lyric-relevant metaphor, and boasts a cinematically strong narrative as she battles the forces of nature to ultimately find herself. Shot on location in New Zealand, the hostile landscapes and snowy cliff sides complement the darker mood of the song, and help form Swift’s character into a surprisingly strong and independent feminist towards the end.
Overall, the video feels as if it lends itself more to be viewed on a full sized cinema screen than just your usual living room TV set, laptop, or, even worse, mobile phone screen at compressed Youtube resolution. Perhaps a new bar has been set for the music industry.